Why the Chronicle is Wrong!

I think I’ve had it.

Just recently the Chronicle of Philanthropy published its “Top 400” non-profits.  No, not “Top 400” in effectiveness, but in total revenue.  I can’t wait for the day that actually happens.

What really bugged me was one of the articles that went with the headline.  In the article they interviewed some of the development directors of major non-profits whose revenue has gone down compared to the previous year.

Of course they blamed the economy.  It’s a classic excuse.

But, it gets better.  They also interviewed some development folks from non-profits where revenue actually went up.  Why did revenue go up?  Their answer: Social networking and branding.

I’m not kidding.  Even worse is that no one could actually quantify just how social networking or branding actually did bring in new revenue.

I’m not sure whom I’m more befuddled with, the fundraisers or the Chronicle for not questioning these crazy answers.

To make matter worse, I’ve seen a series of articles since then on how major non-profits are trying to reach out to younger donors.  One non-profit sponsored a concert where 2,000 teenagers attended and the event raised $5,000. (Of course, no word was mentioned on how much the concert cost and how much they actually LOST.)

I’m not against social networking, branding (well, sort of I am) or reaching out to younger donors…BUT not at the expense of your major gift program.

What worries me is that the Chronicle prints all of these articles on strategies and tactics that are “sexy” with the perception being that if you want to stay ahead of the game you have to implement this stuff too.  It’s ridiculous.

What I’m going to say to you next is NOT SEXY.  Work, Build, Cultivate, Steward your Major Gift donors!

It’s hard work.  And sometimes it feels like you’re just slogging it out.  But believe me, the REAL reason non-profits are down in revenue is not because of the economy.  It’s because they haven’t been doing the hard work of staying focused and disciplined with their major gift program.

The fact is, for those non-profits that are doing a great job with their major gift program, Richard and I are seeing growth year after year.  That doesn’t mean that some donors aren’t experiencing hardships due to the economy, but where MGO’s are really working their files and knowing their donors, overall they are growing.

So, when you read all these articles about social networking and younger donors and you’re starting to feel guilty that you don’t have a big strategy for it—DON’T!

Take solace that you are pursuing the “un-sexy” thing:  working your major gift strategic plan, understanding your donor’s passion, putting solid offers in front of them and asking for their support.  And, everyday staying focused on it.

Let those other organizations spend their energy, time and money on strategies that are losing them money.  At the end of the day, while they are scratching their heads wondering why revenue is down, you’ll be looking ahead on how to increase giving AGAIN next year.

You and I know what that means.  It means, more money for the great things your non-profit is doing trying to change the world.



About Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry

Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry have over 55 years of experience fundraising for non-profits. Richard Perry was co-owner of Domain Group until 2005. Jeff Schreifels was a Senior Strategist for Domain Group for 12 years. They came together a few years ago to start Veritus Group, a full-service major gift fundraising agency. Veritus Group has a unique, data-driven approach unlike any agency focused on major gifts. Jeff and Richard are passionate about their work, passionate about life and hopes this blog will provide you with insights and tangible benefits for you and your work. Thank you for reading!
This entry was posted in Development Directors, Donor-Centered, Major Gift Officers, Major Gifts, Mission, Non-Profits, Philanthopy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Why the Chronicle is Wrong!

  1. Jeff Brooks says:

    Amen, brother! I know quite a few organizations that simply aren’t suffering from the recession. They’re the ones who are slogging it out with the unsexy stuff that motivates donors to give: Major donor programs, direct mail, donor-focused newsletters, getting receipts out quickly, having a clean, accurate database … That’s where the revenue is.

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